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Bicycle-specific laws

What is a roadworthy bicycle?

All bicycles are required to have at least one effective brake and a “bell, horn, or similar warning device, in working order” (RR 258; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

The Road Rules state that the rider of a bicycle must not ride at night, or in hazardous weather conditions that are causing reduced visibility, unless the bicycle, or the rider, displays:

  1. a flashing or steady white light (arguably then, the blue lights that are becoming more popular as front lights offend this rule) that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the front of the bicycle; and
  2. a flashing or steady red light and reflector that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bicycle; and
  3. a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50 metres from the rear of the bicycle when light is projected onto it by a vehicle’s low-beam headlight (RR 259; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

Helmets

RR 256 states that all riders and their passengers (including children in attached seats) “must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened” on their heads (maximum penalty: 5 pu) unless VicRoads has issued the rider with a certificate (see below). Riders of scooters on roads or road-related areas must also wear approved bicycle helmets (RR 244B)(1). “Approved bicycle helmet” means those approved by VicRoads and published in the Government Gazette.

Under RR 256(4) or, in the case of scooters, RR 244B(2), VicRoads “may issue a certificate stating that it would be impractical, undesirable or inexpedient that the person named in the certificate wear a bicycle helmet while riding on, or being taken as a passenger on, a bicycle (scooter)”. A person who has been issued such a certificate must have it in their possession when riding and produce it when demanded by an authorised person (i.e. person with written authorisation from VicRoads or the Department of Transport) or a police officer (RR 256(5)).

A paying passenger being carried on a three- or four-wheeled bicycle does not have to wear a helmet (RR 256(2)(a)).

How a bicycle should be ridden

Riders must “sit astride the rider’s seat facing forwards (except if the bicycle is not built to be ridden astride), with at least one hand on the handlebars” and, if the bike is equipped with a seat, not ride the bike seated in any other position on the bike (RR 245; maximum penalty: 3 pu). Like drivers, a cyclist is not permitted to use a hand-held mobile phone while riding (RR 300; maximum penalty: 10 pu).

“The rider of a bicycle must not carry more persons on the bicycle than the bicycle is designed to carry” (this makes the practice of “dinking” illegal) (RR 246; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Cyclists are not permitted to ride within two metres of the rear of a moving motor vehicle continuously for more than 200 metres (RR 255; maximum penalty: 3 pu). Riders are also not permitted “to cause a traffic hazard by moving into the path of a driver or pedestrian” (RR 253; maximum penalty: 1 pu) or to be towed by another vehicle or hold onto a moving vehicle (RR 254; maximum penalty: 5 pu).

Unless a rider is overtaking other riders, that person is not permitted to ride more than two abreast on a road (RR 151; maximum penalty: 3 pu) and must keep within 1.5 metres of the other rider (maximum penalty: 1 pu). In effect, this means you can ride two abreast on any road and up to three abreast when overtaking, if safe to do so.

A rider is permitted to overtake a motor vehicle on the left except where that vehicle is turning left and is giving a left change of direction signal (RR 141(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Riders are prohibited from riding “across a road, or a part of a road, on a children’s crossing or pedestrian crossing” (RR 248(1); maximum penalty: 3 pu). Riders must dismount and walk their bicycles across those crossings. Riders are permitted to ride across a road on a marked foot crossing but only if there is a green bicycle crossing light showing (RR 248(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu; see also RR 262).

RR 35 allows the rider of a bicycle to turn right at any intersection by executing a “hook turn” rather than crossing lanes of traffic. RR 35(3) sets out how this is done. Failing to carry out the turn as described RR 35(3) means the rider may be fined a maximum of 2 pu.

Drunk riding

The relevant provisions of the RSA (i.e. pt 5) relating to drink-driving refer to motor vehicles and, accordingly, do not apply to cyclists – as such, cyclists cannot lose demerit points for cycling while under the influence of alcohol. However, there is an archaic and very poorly drafted offence in the Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic) (s 16(b)) that imposes a maximum penalty of 10 pu or two months imprisonment if you are drunk in charge of a carriage (not including a motor vehicle) in a public place. “Carriage” is not defined but would likely include a bicycle.

Use on footpaths, shared paths, bicycle paths and bicycle lanes

The RR dictionary defines a “ footpath” as “an area open to the public that is designated for, or has as one of its main uses, use by pedestrians”.

Riders of bicycles who are “12 years or older must not ride on a footpath” (RR 250(1); maximum penalty: 3 pu) unless:

  • they are over 18 and are accompanying and supervising a child under the age of 12 who is riding on the footpath; or
  • they have a physical or intellectually disability and have a valid medical certificate to prove it (RR 250(1A)).

People riding on the footpath must ensure they keep to the left of the path, provided it is practicable to do so, and must give way to pedestrians (RR 250(2); maximum penalty: 3 pu).

On “separated footpaths” (areas with marked lanes for both riders and pedestrians; RR 239(4)) pedestrians and riders must keep to their designated lane (RR 239(1); maximum penalty: 2 pu). Exceptions for pedestrians are:

  • if the pedestrian is crossing the path – undue delay in crossing the path is not permitted (RR 239(1)); or
  • if the pedestrian is on rollerblades, rollerskates or a similar “wheeled recreation device” (e.g. a skateboard or scooter), or is in or pushing a wheelchair (RR 239(2)).

Riders using a “bicycle path” (a path signposted with bicycle path signs; RR 239(4)), footpath, separated footpath or shared path (areas designated for use by both riders and pedestrians; RR 242(2)) must, wherever practicable, keep to the left of any oncoming cyclists on the path (RR 251; maximum penalty: 3 pu).

If there is a “bicycle lane” (see RR 153(4)) on the road the cyclist must ride in that lane, “unless it is impracticable to do so” (RR 247; maximum penalty: 3 pu). Motor vehicle drivers are not permitted to drive in the bicycle lane (RR 153(1); maximum penalty: 5 pu) except for up to 50 metres if they are:

  • about to stop or park (provided stopping or parking is not prohibited at that place) (RR 153(2));
  • driving a bus or taxi and setting down or picking up passengers (RR 153(3));
  • entering or leaving the road (RR 158(1)(a));
  • entering a part of the road of one kind from a part of the road of another kind (e.g. moving to or from a service road) (RR 158(1)(b));
  • overtaking a vehicle turning right or doing a U-turn (RR 158(1)(c));
  • entering a marked lane or a line of traffic from the side of the road (RR 158(1)(d)); or
  • stopping at a place in the lane (RR 158(3)).

It is also permitted for a motor vehicle driver to drive in a bicycle lane, for an unrestricted distance, to avoid an “obstruction” (RR 158(2)(a)).

Bicycle carriers

A bicycle carrier is a device “attached to the rear of a motor vehicle to enable one or more bicycles to be carried by the vehicle, but does not include a trailer” (RR 400(1)). RR 405 states that “[a] person must not drive on a road a motor vehicle that has an empty bicycle carrier attached to the rear of the vehicle” (maximum penalty: 3 pu).

Regulation 50 of the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009 mandates all vehicles to display licence plates in accordance with those regulations (maximum penalty: 2 pu). One requirement is that the licence plates must be clearly visible to a distance of 20 metres (RR 48(1)(d)). If the licence plate is obscured by a bicycle carrier, with or without bikes, the number plate may be securely affixed to the bicycle carrier (RR 48(3)) so that it is visible.

Bicycle-specific laws :: Last updated: Sun Jun 30th 2013